The Best Food-Dispensing Toys

Why are food-dispensing toys so great for dogs? The Dog Trainer explains. Plus – 4 awesome toys that will keep your dog happy and busy.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #131

Your dog is livin’ large, what with the free meals, the comfy sofa, and the regular outings for sniffs and exercise. But that easy life can get dull. Even with exercise and some reward-based training every day, she has a lot of empty time on her paws. Most dogs cope. But some, maybe many, develop boredom-related behavior problems – barking and chewing, for instance. 

And even for dogs who are coping okay, life could be a lot richer.  This week’s burning question: Which food-dispensing toys are best for your dog?

If they were living on their own, scavenging animals like dogs would spend a large part of each day looking for things to eat. For most dogs, getting hold of food is the single most interesting and satisfying activity in the world. It occupies their brains and their noses and leaves them happily relaxed. It gives them something to do during the long hours while you’re at work. It keeps dogs from going stir-crazy in bad weather or when they’re recovering from surgery. And – a bonus – food-dispensing toys create little or no work for you.

Disclaimer: Just so you know, all of the toys I tested were bought at retail stores. I prepared this article before I found out that Kong is a sponsor of our photo sweepstakes. Whoops, advertising and editorial don't always keep in the closest touch, do they? I considered rewriting my recs to omit the Kong and the Wobbler, but I really do love them. As for you, please choose any brand of safe, durable toy that's fun for your dog.

Getting hold of food occupies dogs’ brains and noses and leaves them happily relaxed.

What Makes a Good Food-Dispensing Toy

Good toys are durable, easy to use, and easy to clean. Perhaps no toy is absolutely positively 100 percent safe for unsupervised use, but the favorites I’ll mention have stood up well to life with energetic, hard-chewing dogs.

A word of caution. If your dog guards food or toys, it’s usually wise to resolve those issues before you start using food-dispensing toys. Food toys can also heighten conflict between dogs, so if you have multiple dogs you may want to separate them at toy time. Take that as a given if you’ve been feeding them separately anyway.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).